BRIDGEPORT—On a recent Saturday morning at the Catholic Center, The Leadership Institute welcomed about a hundred people from parishes all around the diocese for a conversation with those who bring Holy Communion to the sick and/or homebound.
Patrick Donovan, director of The Leadership Institute explained that this conversation was the direct result of the over 80 face-to-face sessions for liturgical ministers. “One of the questions that consistently came up was the appropriate way to distribute Holy Communion to those who are unable to join the parish community at Mass each Sunday,” said Donovan.
“It was moving to see how many people wanted to make sure their loved ones did not miss receiving our Lord in the Eucharist simply because their living arrangements had changed. The idea for this workshop was born from those conversations,” Donovan said.
Deacon Tim Bolton, manager of pastoral care at St. Vincent’s hospital spoke to the gathered and raised the question, “When we accompany someone, who are we accompanying, who are we visiting, who are we with?” He explained, “When we give of ourselves freely to another, we are visiting Christ.”
Deacon Bolton asked, “What do you think happens in the heart of God when you make yourself available to him…when you take the time to be with another human being? How do you think Jesus feels when you visit him? That is what you are doing…and God bless you,” he addressed the gathered.
He gave the group reassurance for the moments that they might not feel adequate in serving, saying, “If you don’t think you have the right skill set, who is telling you that? Does your God tell you who you’re not or who you are?”
Deacon Bolton explained that he uses a mantra to center himself before visiting patients at the hospital. “At the threshold of the door I pray, ‘Oh God come to my assistance, Lord make haste to help me’(Psalm 69). It puts God in charge and reminds me whose work I’m doing,” he said.
“When we draw near with tender love to those in need of care, we bring hope and God’s smile to the contradictions of the world,” Deacon Bolton said, quoting Pope Francis’ message on the 22nd World Day of the Sick. “When generous devotion to others becomes the hallmark of our actions, we give way to the Heart of Christ and bask in its warmth, and thus contribute to the coming of God’s Kingdom.”
The conversation also included best practices for those who bring Holy Communion to the sick and/or homebound, Formation requirements, connecting patients to the parish and HIPPA guidelines.
All who attended received a 2019-2020 copy of The Catholic Handbook for Visiting the Sick and Homebound, the essential resource for lay ministers of care, especially Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion.
This portable, annual resource has been updated to include all the official rites a lay minister will need from the Book of Blessings and Pastoral Care of the Sick: Rites of Anointing and Viaticum to bring Holy Communion, as well as to pray and share the Gospel with those who cannot regularly worship with their parish community. The book includes all the official rites an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion will need, as well as all weekly readings that can be used when bringing Holy Communion to the sick and homebound.
Those who have the honor of distributing Holy Communion to those who cannot be at Mass on Sunday should, according to the Norms Governing Liturgical Ministries, receive a mandate from the bishop and Donovan explained that The Leadership Institute could aid in the process for those who were not already enrolled in formation.
Update on Liturgical Norms
The Leadership Institute has recently announced that the first wave of mandates (numbering 3,500, following the 80+ face-to-face sessions) have been signed by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano and are ready for distribution to parishes.
These mandates include anyone who successfully completed the formation process by June 30. Those who have completed formation since that time will be distributed in the coming weeks.
The mandates are available for pick up at the front desk of the Catholic Center (238 Jewett Avenue, Bridgeport) Mondays through Thursdays from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm and on Fridays from 8:30 am to 1 pm. When you pick up your mandates you will also receive a book of blessings for liturgical ministers.
Each parish is asked to bless all liturgical ministers during a Mass between now and the end of September and to distribute the mandates as part of the blessing. Formation for new liturgical ministers will be available online in the coming days.
(For more information visit formationreimagined.org.)